My faith in humanity has been repeatedly buoyed over the years by observing the extraordinary creativity and resourcefulness of people in trying economic circumstances. I reflected upon this life lesson during a recent trip through some of the poorest towns in Peru.
In towns without a paint store were astonishingly beautiful murals. Talented locals created lush pigments from local plants, brushes from animal hair, and wonderful images from their minds. Local doctors had poor access to medicine, but were remarkably resourceful in harnessing the power of therapeutic plants to do their healing work. But the Peruvian who impressed me the most was an extremely old man I met who was renowned for his ability to care for llamas.
In my broken Spanish, I was able to gather that the llama was central to life in the town, particularly for the transport of foodstuffs and crafts for trade. It was thus a significant problem that a local bird known as the malchiste had taken to nesting in the warm, thick manes of the llamas during the winter months. The noisy birds irritated the animals, disrupted their sleep and inflicted scratches that sometimes became infected.
In a wealthy country, the llamas would simply have been stabled in a tightly fenced enclosure, but that was beyond the means of the poor people of the village. So the inventive old man suggested rubbing baker’s yeast all over the llamas to repel the birds. Stunningly, it worked.
I asked him how he ever came up with such a strange but effective idea. He responded that he long ago learned that Continue Reading…